By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

I.            Say what an essay is.

II.            Identify the parts of an essay. 

III.           Discuss the parts of an essay.

The Essay

The essay is a special kind of writing. Like a piece of music, the essay is composed. That is why it is also called a composition. It is usually on one topic. An essay is usually quite short. In fact, student essays are often five paragraphs in length.

The Structure of the Essay

We have said that the essay can be compared to a piece of music. They are both composed. Think of your favourite song. A piece of music begins in a special way, goes on, and ends in a special way. In the same way, your essay must have a special beginning; then give the message you  planned  to  give;  and  then  end  in  a  special  way.  Thus, the essay has three parts:  the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. This is what is called the structure of the essay.

Now, let us look at the parts that make up the essay. These are the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Let us examine these more closely.

The Introduction

The introduction is the first part of the essay. In student essays, the introduction is usually one paragraph; it is the first paragraph.

What does the introduction do?

Have you attended a formal event, such as the school’s opening ceremony or the first morning assembly of this term? One of the things that is done during such an event is to introduce the important people at the event. Also, if there is a guest speaker, someone comes to introduce him or her. In this introduction, we know, generally, who the person is, and what qualifies him or her to speak to us on the topic.

In the same way, the introduction of an essay will tell us what the essay is all about. Specifically, the introduction to an essay will tell readers:

·         What the essay is about. This is called the subject.

·         What particular issues about the subject you will be discussing. This is called the thesis.

We shall learn to write good introductions in another lesson.

The Body of the Essay

The body of the essay is made up of a number of paragraphs.  These are the paragraphs that immediately follow the introduction.

What is contained in the body of the essay? 

We have said that one of the things you do in the introduction is to tell your readers the particular issues on the topic that you will talk about. Let us assume that you are writing to a friend in another school about your new school. Your topic, therefore, is your school. Now, what do you particularly want to tell your friend about your school? Some of these things may be where the school is situated, the people in the school, and things you like about the school. These will constitute your thesis.

Now, these are specific ideas about the school.  You will develop each of these ideas in one paragraph. You will describe, and you will explain these ideas. You will also give examples of these ideas. You will do all these in the body of your essay. 

Therefore, the body of the essay is the part of the essay which comes after the introduction.  In this part, we give the message. We discuss the specific issues we had mentioned in the thesis. We do this by stating the issue, explaining the issue and giving examples.

We shall discuss writing good body paragraphs in another lesson.

The Conclusion

The conclusion is the last part of the essay, usually the last paragraph. At functions, such as the opening ceremony in your school, you clapped for the speakers when they finish giving the message they have for you. How do you know that each speaker has completed giving his or her message? Sometimes, they simply said: “Thank you.” Then you know that the speaker has come to the end of the speech. Imagine that at a function the speaker gives the message and does not give you the clue that he or she has finished delivering the message. If that happens, you will not know what to do immediately.

What does the conclusion do?

The conclusion will help your readers to know that you have finished giving your message. One way to do this is to remind the readers about the key issues you had discussed in the body of the essay.

We shall learn how to write good conclusions in another lesson.

What will the essay look like?

Here is what the essay will look like in a pictorial form:

Pictorial Representation of the Structure of an Essay


In this picture, we see what the essay will look like in a picture form.

The picture shows the three parts of the essay: the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Each part can be seen as quite separate but each part is united to the other parts to make the essay complete. It is like the blocks used in building a house; they are individual blocks, but together, laid on top of one another, a magnificent structure is achieved.

What do we see in the Introduction? 

The introduction is seen as a separate block.  It has something specific to do; it opens the discussion. We shall look closely at how the introduction does this practically in another lesson, but we find that it introduces two things. These are the subject (I may call it the topic) which is what the essay is all about. The other thing is what ideas on the topic I will discuss in the essay. 

What do we see in the Body?

This is the part in which the real discussion takes place. This is where I will give my message. I will state one particular idea that I wish to talk about. Then, I will explain it. I will also give examples of this particular idea to make it clearer to my reader.

What do we see in the Conclusion? 

In this final paragraph, I will close my discussion. In this part, I will remind my reader about what I had talked about in the body of the essay.

 Here is another way to look at the structure of the essay:

The Introduction (The Foundation) 

The first thing you do when you build the house is to lay the foundation. When you lay a good foundation, you ensure that the house is strong. In the same way, when you lay a good foundation for your essay, you will have a good essay. In this case, your introduction must let the reader know what the essay is about (remember the subject?), and what specific issues on the subject you will be discussing.

The Body (The Walls)

For a building, these are the walls. The walls will be all round the building. The walls will also divide the building into a number of rooms. In a similar way, the body of your essay will build up or develop the ideas. Each paragraph can be likened to a room. Thus, we can look at the number of paragraphs as the number of rooms in the building. As such, each paragraph will thus develop one idea as one room can serve one purpose. While one room will be used as a bedroom, another will serve the purpose of a kitchen, and another serve as a washroom or the living -room, and so on.

The Conclusion (The Roof)

When all is done, your house will be roofed. The roof ensures that all parts of the building, bottom, sides and top, are covered. Similarly, when you have finished writing your essay, you must wrap up everything in a conclusion.


In this lesson you have learnt that:

i.    the essay has a structure,

ii.   the structure refers to the division of the essay into introduction, body, and conclusion.

iii. the introduction tells the reader:

a.   the subject, that is, what the essay is about, and

b.   the thesis, which is the specific ideas on the subject that we shall talk about.

iv.  the body of the essay gives the message. It does this in a number of paragraphs by:

a.   stating the idea,

b.   explaining the idea, and

c.   giving examples to illustrate the idea.

v.   the conclusion brings our discussion to a close. It may do this by reminding the readers of the important ideas discussed in the body of the essay.


Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.  

Peer Reviewers John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.

Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.

William Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.